Talk to me about crib bumpers and the risk/benefit analysis.
April 16, 2015 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Talk to me about crib bumpers and the risk/benefit analysis.

I know. Crib bumpers are evil SIDS risks.

However, my five month old daughter is a very active sleeper (even when swaddled, younger, she would regularly manage to rotate herself at least 90 deg in her sleep or scoot to the top of the crib). If she wakes up and moves around, she's usually pretty good at self-soothing back to sleep as long as she's in a comfortable position. She has recently become a back-to-tummy rolling ninja. Her tummy-to-back ninja development is in progress, and as such, if she doesn't wake us up at night because she's stuck on her tummy and upset about it, she will wake us up with frantic sobbing because in the process of trying to roll back onto her back she knocks her head on the side of her crib. Another frequent game lately is getting a limb or two stuck between slats of the crib and freaking out about that as well.

It seems to me that crib bumpers would solve this problem and let us all get a bit more sleep at night. We own them. We bought our crib used and it came with the bumpers designed specifically for it. The fact that crib bumpers are still sold says to me that people still use them. But all the Official Advice (of which there is SO MUCH for new parents) is that they are suffocation risks and no one should ever use them ever.

I guess I'm looking for data if you have it but more likely anecdotes about your decision to use crib bumpers or not. It's not really clear to me with SIDS-related risks whether the risk trails off after a certain age (like when a baby is much more mobile and has the strength to lift and turn their heads easily), or whether specifically bumper-related deaths usually happen under a certain age, so pointing me to research in that direction would be helpful. I'd also be happy to hear of alternatives you've found and can recommend.

I'm not worried about my daughter seriously injuring herself without the bumpers, I'd just like to avoid the owies and wailing at night, as it's becoming a nearly nightly occurrence in addition to the nighttime feeds and the occasional teething irritability so there's just... a lot of awakeness lately.

Note that she was sleeping in swaddle sacks for her first three months, though as I mentioned she was still pretty good at scooting around in those, and I've stopped using them since she started rolling since she is entirely capable of rolling onto her tummy in them and she does get stuck there and it scares me for her to be stuck without use of her arms. I have some Halo sleep sacks that leave her arms free, but they're fleece and we live in a climate that is not fleece-friendly; however, if sacks solve the limb problem, tell me and I'll see if I can find a climate-appropriate solution.
posted by olinerd to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I used this breathable crib bumper for those very reasons.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:15 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding breathable crib bumpers as a good alternative. Used them with all four of our kids.
posted by puritycontrol at 6:45 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

We didn't use bumpers, but we had a similarly mobile kid. She rolled back to belly at 3 months, which is when we moved her to the crib as she kept hitting the sides of the co-sleeper. For the first couple of weeks she would occasionally get an arm or leg stuck in the slats and would cry for us to come help. One time she'd backed all the way up and had both legs out, while on her belly. It was kind of adorable. She hit her head a few times, but we also found she liked to sleep with her head pressed up against the slat. After about 2-3 weeks none of this happened anymore. She learned to navigate with the space she was given. This was summer in Georgia, so she was just in a sleeper but no sleep sack.
posted by bizzyb at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely a mesh crib bumper/liner. We used one with our son, and it was wonderful!
posted by jenny76 at 6:55 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Once our daughter could roll (both off her back and off her belly) at around 5 months we put the terrycloth crib bumpers on for the same reason. We fastened them as tightly as possible to the rails so there was room between the mattress and the bumper. But I was no longer actively worried about SIDS or suffocation at that point - I was more worried that she would injure a limb.

This is not medical advice, but truly, you should feel free to make whatever choice lets you sleep (ha) at night.
posted by nkknkk at 6:58 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

We don't use a bumper, and our now 7mo had the same issues with the slats when he first moved from the bassinet. However, I did find that he very quickly grew out of the head-bumping/stuck limb phase, especially as he got more deft at rolling and moving his limbs independently. It may not be something you have to worry about for very long.
posted by sundaydriver at 7:14 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing breathable/mesh bumpers.
posted by amro at 7:15 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sleep sacks tidily solved the limbs-though-the-rails problem for us. There are lighter-weight cotton or woven muslin ones available.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:23 AM on April 16, 2015

Best answer: Breathable bumpers, as all before have noted. If you still want to use the sleep sacks, Halo makes cotton and thin jersey sleep sacks as well as fleece ones. They usually get marketed this time of year, for the coming summer months.
posted by Liesl at 7:24 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

We had breathable "bumpers" (which aren't, really), and as soon as Short Story could sit up he promptly got his arm caught in the crib rails above the bumpers. So they were essentially worthless.

What we did instead was an ugly solution but very practical - we lined the sides of the crib with cardboard boxes. Kept his limbs from getting caught (and may have contributed to the fact that he never attempted to climb out of his crib) but didn't provide any more bumper than the breathable one did. He did scoot his head up to the top of the bed but he never banged himself.
posted by vignettist at 8:10 AM on April 16, 2015

For the sleep sack problem, if you're handy and have a sewing machine, you can take a largish adult t-shirt, sew seams up the sides to narrow it a little bit, and put snaps or something along the bottom edge and make a very lightweight sleep sack. If the shirt already has some kind of closure on the front, you can just sew straight across the bottom.
posted by telepanda at 8:22 AM on April 16, 2015

Our daughter was eight months old, sleeping in a crib--with no bumpers--at daycare, when she died of SIDS. She was big and strong, able to roll around and over easily, and we spent many a sleepless night rearranging her in her crib.

The shitty thing about SIDS is that it's still unexplained (for now). The one thing that doctors do know is that when they started recommending that kids sleep on their backs in a crib without any things in it to potentially obstruct their airways the incidence of SIDS dropped by more than 50%.

I know I'm biased, but if it were me I'd find a way to deal with it for the next few months. Sleep sacks are good, trading off nights of who is in charge helps. Yes, the lack of sleep sucks, but I can tell you it was more than twice as bad when my wife and I had twins a few years later...
posted by togdon at 9:04 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

The concern about crib bumpers is not just the strangulation risk if the ties come loose. It's also that a baby can get it's face wedged up against the bumper and suffocate. They're just not safe.

The reason they're still sold is that they haven't been banned (yet) and they look cute, so manufacturers keep on producing them. And because they're still sold, parents assume they're safe and keep buying them. It's a vicious circle.

I would not put anything in a baby's crib that increased the SIDS risk by even a fraction of a percentage. Period.

(Togdon: I'm so very sorry for your loss.)
posted by Salamander at 9:20 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could she sleep in a Pack & Play, instead? My son slept in one, and the mesh sides are softer than the slats most cribs have. (Warning: this was over a decade ago, maybe Pack & Plays aren't mesh any more or have been banned or who knows what.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:51 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Look at the size of your child's nostrils. They are tiny tubes, constructed of soft flesh and cartilage. The weight of the child's head pressing down on the nostrils can obstruct the passage of air. Children have suffocated because a blanket across their face reduced the flow of air enough.

The safest sleeping environment for a baby is a desolate wasteland of crib-- no blanket, no pillow, no stuffed animals, no textile decorations, no crib bumper.Even the fitted bottom sheet should be taut, with no cushioned mattress pad underneath.
posted by ohshenandoah at 6:04 PM on April 16, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.

We are well aware of, and have always followed, all safe sleeping guidelines without issue; this was just one area where I wasn't sure, as with much pregnancy/parenting advice, whether it was a matter of "better safe than sorry" or "no really, science says these are bad", and given the potential advantages to my sleep and sanity, I wanted to know more.

I appreciate the "it's just a phase" and "just trade off nighttime duties" suggestions but when my husband travels for work for months at a time, desperation and sleep-deprivation make you look for other solutions.

Found the mesh bumpers today so I'll give those a shot. Thanks all!
posted by olinerd at 3:56 AM on April 20, 2015

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